Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes historian Dan Welch
As we commemorate the 244th anniversary of the engagements at Lexington and Concord, it is an opportunity to reflect upon this moment’s importance in American history. The results of what happened in April 1775 were truly “heard around the world.” The importance of those events are commemorated and remembered in various forms across the fabric our country. This holds true, even in Youngstown, Ohio.
As the country grappled with the effects of the Great Depression, numerous civic organizations in the state of Ohio sought to construct a “Road of Remembrance” in honor of the servicemen from the country’s previous conflict. On June 17, 1930, the state legislature designated a portion of Route 193 from Lake Erie to 422 in Youngstown as a memorial roadway in honor of those soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion during the Great War. Many towns planted memorial trees along the route, some erected monuments, while other organizations held ceremonies marking the occasion. This special route was to be just a small portion of remembrance that was to span from Montreal, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
The passage of this memorial legislation in Youngstown was the direct result of work that had begun a year earlier. The Mahoning Chapter of the Road to Remembrance (Youngstown is located in Mahoning County, Ohio) started drumming up support of the memorial road in August 1929. In an issue of the Mahoning Valley Motorist magazine, the chapter hoped to plant “an avenue of American elms, spaced 50 feet apart…whose spreading branches will wave benediction over the…monuments that will indicate to all who pass that we are not too busy or too thoughtless to own our gratitude to those who have given their lives in behalf of our country.”
It was an ambitious plan for the chapter. But, despite the spiraling economic situation across the country, northeast Ohio with its steel industry remained strong, and with it financial support for a project such as this. With financial commitments readily available in the Youngstown-Mahoning area, the Road to Remembrance project fueled other memorials as well. Returning back to the Mahoning Valley Motorist magazine,“The Youngstown Daughters of the American Revolution have requested the privilege of erecting either a cenotaph or arch over the road at the entrance to their city.”
The Daughters of the American Revolution did not stop with these plans, however. Along Route 7, the southern corridor to the city of Youngstown, the DAR Youngstown Chapter found a location to remember those veterans that had given so much in America’s first war. In 1931, the Youngstown Chapter of the organization brought rocks from the battlefields of Lexington and Concord to be placed around a memorial rock for the Road of Remembrance. The site that was chosen sat at the entrance to the Forest Glen Estates, the earliest Youngstown automobile suburb.
Today, the original Road to Remembrance has all but been forgotten. According to Carl E. Feather, staff writer for the Star Beacon newspaper in Ashtabula, Ohio, north of Youngstown, the only marker along Route 193 that recalls its official designation is at the entrance to a cemetery on Belmont Avenue, in Youngstown, Ohio. When Feather interviewed the superintendent of the cemetery for his May 2009 article, “Route 193-The Road of Remembrance” the superintendent was unaware of the marker’s relationship to the memorial designation of the road.
This holds true to the DAR’s remembrance of the battles of Lexington and Concord and their importance on America’s road to freedom. The “Southside,” the southern suburbs of Youngstown, has witnessed much since this memorial was placed. The mafia wars during the post-World War II era, the closing of the steel mills, the loss of population and blighted and abandoned homes, and the rise of numerous gangs and gang activity with one of the highest crime rates in the country, have all swirled around this memorial.
Yet, the memorial still remains. The stones that witnessed the early days of our fight for independence still remain. The Mahoning Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution still hold ceremonies at the memorial. They are less frequent than those early years of the memorial’s history, but they still attract local lawmakers, congressmen and women, and other dignitaries. So if find yourself in Youngstown, take a moment to remember the trials and triumphs of April 19, 1775.